When the global pandemic hit and lockdowns began, PR firms shuttered their offices and went virtual. Despite a great deal of initial uncertainty, business rebounded in many segments, though our colleagues in some markets—including travel and hospitality—underwent a longer period of downturn.
For those of us serving the tech and b2b markets, an important part of our clients’ marketing year went dark as all trade shows, association meetings and industry events hit a hard stop. The b2b trade show market in the U.S., worth $15.58 billion in 2019, tanked to approximately $5.6 billion in 2020. Some projections show the market on a slow rebound to $14.5 billion by 2024.
During normal years, trade shows are the events everyone loves to hate. They’re costly, time-intensive and absorb a disproportionate amount of marketing attention from companies’ annual calendars. But for those of us in PR and marketing who’ve worked trade fairs, we know they present an opportunity to demonstrate our creativity and build thought leadership, meet the press—in-person—influence influencers and help our clients to sell their products/services.
Here are some examples of how some companies, occasionally with very lean budgets, leveraged trade show events to deliver considerable extra ROI.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '21 Technology PR Magazine
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Flexibility in audio-visual technology
ZeeVee is a pioneer in AV over IP technology, the transmission of AV content over open-standard Internet Protocol networks. But the privately held company had limited market recognition. For its upcoming exhibition at the 2018 InfoComm trade show, with a key product introduction planned, our client needed to attract attention to its back of show floor booth.
With the theme of “flexibility” of its AVoIP SDVoE technology, we set out to visually illustrate their key product differentiator by hiring a contortionist to do in-booth shows every hour. Following her gymnastic display of flexibility, ZeeVee’s marketing manager took the microphone for a tech demonstration of AV flexibility.
It worked well beyond expectations: crowds formed, media shot photos/ videos and customers sought out demos and generated buzz. Show results included seven media briefings, winning of AV Technology Best of Show award for ZeeVee’s ZyPerMX4 four-channel IP encoder and 16 show-related placements.
Blackberry vs. Israeli software
In 2007, at the annual CTIA conference—now absorbed by the Mobile World Congress—Israeli telecom software company eMoze wanted to demonstrate that its push email service was better and faster than the then-prevalent Blackberry. How to do that at the largest telecom conference in the U.S., where eMoze was outspent and outgunned by all the majors?
Our solution was to challenge Blackberry to a duel. We turned eMoze’s show booth into an old Western corral and placed posters challenging Blackberry to meet us at high noon. Curious crowds thronged the booth for the showdown. When Blackberry was a no-show—as expected—we asked an audience member with a Blackberry to serve as a stand-in. A member of the Israel marketing team, dressed as a cowboy, stood back-to-back with the Blackberry owner. They each took 10 paces, turned and fired an email. eMoze’s arrived first and our Blackberry stand-in lost the contest. Photos of the duel made the show dailies and the company’s booth was busy throughout the conference.
|How do you illustrate “flexibility” in AV technology at a trade show? Hire a contortionist!|
If you’re an outsider, become an insider
For consumer electronics and smart band developer, Healbe, building recognition for its GoBe2 watch, was a challenge. The device could automatically track users’ calorie consumption, body hydration and stress level but the Russian/American import was up against rivals such as the Apple watch and FitBit.
So, for CES 2018, we negotiated a sponsorship of the giant conference’s health and wellness track. That resulted in exposure at CES’ New York preview event two months before the conference and a speaking slot at the Vegas event. We offered product samples to key journalists attending the show, conducted numerous in-booth demos and participated in the ShowStoppers media event. Coverage was extensive and Healbe was able to negotiate a number of critical retail and licensing partnerships as a result.
If you’re an insider, keep communicating
Just two months ahead of CES 2018, the HDMI Forum announced the release of Version 2.1 of the HDMI Specification. Though all HDMI 2.0 adopters were well aware of the announcement, the industry was hungry for news. The announcement became the centerpiece of HDMI Licensing Administrator’s CES exhibition.
We arranged for HDMI to participate in the CES preview press conference in Las Vegas and scheduled our own standalone media event. The media invite promised “a rare opportunity to get a complete update on the new HDMI 2.1 specification and the HDMI technology marketplace, including the latest adopter and market penetration statistics from both HDMI Forum and HDMI LA executives.”
The result surpassed client expectations with more than 150 journalists—print, broadcast and online—jamming into our Mandalay Bay conference room to learn how the new specification would help to transform a wide range of consumer electronics industries. The news went around the world and proved to be one of the most important developments of the 2018 event.
The worst of the pandemic may be behind us. That, in turn, should signal a return to whatever the new normal may be in trade shows and events. Putting extra effort, and creativity, into trade show planning can mean the difference between a burdensome, obligatory event and one that turbocharges your or your clients’ marketing and sales success.
Henry Feintuch is President of Feintuch Communications.